Waitaki election up in the air

JOANNE BENNETT
Last updated 15:42 18/07/2013
alex familton
STANDING DOWN: After two terms as Mayor of Oamaru, Alex Familton is calling it a day.
gary kircher
ALREADY UP: Gary Kircher put his hand up for the position of Oamaru Mayor in March.
jim hopkins
MAKING NOISES: Deputy mayor Jim Hopkins is a potential candidate in the race for the Oamaru mayoralty.

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News that Oamaru Mayor Alex Familton will not be running for mayor in the upcoming election has sent shock waves around the community.

Mr Familton announced in May that he would run for a third term, but recently had a change of mind.

"We want to develop our present business, continue our involvement with community at ground level and see more of family," Mr Familton said.

During the 2010 elections, Mr Familton was initially undecided if he would run for a second term, which encouraged Gary Kircher to put his name forward.

Mr Familton did decide to run again, and beat Mr Kircher, his closest competition, by 1183 votes - 52 per cent to Mr Kircher's 40 per cent.

Mr Kircher announced in March that he would be running again this year. He was encouraged to run by members of the community.

"A lot of people were wanting to see more proactive things happening in terms of job creation and attracting businesses," Mr Kircher said.

Mr Kircher said he called Mr Familton after hearing the news and spoke for about 20 minutes.

"I wish him and Heather all the best. It's a high-profile job, and it's never going to be easy," Mr Kircher said.

He said Mr Familton had been good at getting out and about in the community, and now that he is out of the running, the election could be anybody's game.

"With Alex standing down it throws it open. On one hand it's a good thing, but I suppose it depends on who comes out of the woodwork now," Mr Kircher said.

One such potential candidate lurking in the woodwork is deputy mayor Jim Hopkins.

Mr Hopkins said he will decide whether or not to run for mayor by Friday.

"I'll be making a decision towards the end of the week. I think it's appropriate to take stock and acknowledge the contribution Alex has made," he said.

Mr Hopkins won the most votes of all the councillors last election for the Oamaru Ward.

Mr Familton said that he and his wife are were sad to be leaving the positions of mayor and mayoress.

"Our community has been very supportive and we have thrown our heart and soul, with all the other volunteers, in to so many projects.

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"I am confident that, by October, my desk will be clear and projects will be rolling. Our finances have been prudently placed with sustainable rate increases in the ten year plan and debt at a minimum.

"The next mayor will have a stable and established platform to operate from. We have all worked hard to get to this point: community, council and officers.

"Our district has a bright future - we are poised to take advantage of any economic upturn. It will require solid productive and creative districts like ours to battle through the challenges of negative economic times.

"We leave at the peak of our performance, with sadness, but thankful for the opportunity to work, in depth, with community."

WAITAKI HERALD

- © Fairfax NZ News

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